HR professionals: 7 clues to help you avoid getting duped by fake job applications
This article was published as part of the Denver Business Journal Leadership Trust, an invitation-only network of influential business leaders, experts, executives and entrepreneurs.
Well ahead of the release of ChatGPT and other AI tools, my team began seeing an increasing number of bogus resumes and fake LinkedIn profiles in the course of our work. While our team is experienced and usually good at sniffing out fakes, I have to say, they are getting pretty good. In fact, we have fallen victim to a few fake candidates. We triaged applications for one position last week, and out of 18 applications, nine were fake.
There may be people behind these fake profiles — when my team was able to get them on the phone, we could hear many voices in the background, probably a call center. We think the applications we received came from offshore teams whose projects ended unexpectedly after the big tech staffing corrections recently and who are scrambling to find jobs for their idle workers.
Regardless of the situation these fake applications come from, here are some clues to help you catch them early in the process so you don’t waste your time.
1. Stock profile photo
The photo is of a person facing away from the camera, on a hilltop, looking out at the ocean or looking at a mobile device. Often the profile has an “Open to Work” badge. A quick Google search will reveal that this is a stock photo, which means — yup — it’s fake.
2. Obscure or nonexistent school names
Northern Central Florida College or Eastern Indiana State University are a couple of the nonexistent colleges these fake professionals have attended. Just using acronyms — SLVU or UofWM — is suspicious as well. Take a closer look if you don’t recognize the college as a U.S. institution.
3. Conflicting locations
The address on the resume states Cupertino, CA, but none of their job experience is with companies in California. And when you look at the LinkedIn profile, the applicant’s location is Miami, FL. Or better yet, United States. This anomaly alone might not be a red flag due to remote work or a recent move, but when combined with some of the other clues, it can indicate a fake candidate.
4. Resume and LinkedIn profile don’t match
A close comparison of the resume and LinkedIn profile might reveal a number of discrepancies. For instance, employment and school dates don’t line up, job titles conflict, tech stacks don’t match up and skills are not articulated correctly. In this case, it’s likely ChatGPT didn’t cross-reference and nobody proofread its work.
5. Profile created in the past 90 days
To me, this is the biggest telltale sign that you are looking at a fake profile. If you navigate to the “More about this profile” option on the applicant’s LinkedIn page, you can see when the account was created. The fake accounts I’ve seen were all created in the last 90 days. Then, if you go to the recommendations for that individual, you might find another fake account — yes, they are collaborating actively with each other.
6. Obscure Certifications
Fake profiles may be padded with a number of certifications you’ve never heard of, and all of these certifications have been mastered in the past six months. If you find yourself wondering, “What is this certification?” take a deeper look.
7. Excessive detail, or experience that seems tailored for the position
You may notice that the resume seems eerily in line with the requirements for the position. Not that real applicants don’t customize their resumes for a role, but people generally do so in a passive or masked manner. AI-generated resumes, on the other hand, will be a spot-on fit for the position. However, if you dig a little deeper, you may find it’s just their recent position that is a match. And the other roles don’t follow a likely career trajectory — another red flag.
If after reviewing all of these items you still aren’t sure, try this tool from OpenAI to review written text and determine whether it was produced by a human or AI. (There are several other online AI checkers available as well.)
These days it’s hard enough to hire great people, and now we have to navigate great fake people — fun times!
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